Wednesday, February 17, 2010

William Fishley-Holland, Potters from France, Crystals from the Kiln

Jug by William Fishley Holland and Mug by Doug Fitch

It is always dangerous to slow down when passing an antique shop window, there is no telling what you might pick up! We were delighted to find this jug in an antique shop in Dunedin a few years ago, not long after I started potting.

Having a good pot to hold and to admire is like having a good tutor. Having a bad pot to hold can also be instructive. There are lessons to be learned about what weight a pot should be, what proportions are pleasing to the eye, and much to be discovered about the potter, because the pot is often a self portrait of the potter. Does the potter leave throwing marks, or are the marks carefully concealed? Is the clay silky smooth, or it delightfully unprocessed and earthy? Has the potter laboured, and been uncertain of what form the pot should take? Or has the potter arrived at the form purposefully and directly? These things tell us something about the potter's experience and character.

The jug was made by William Fishley Holland. William Fishley Holland was the grandson of Edwin Beer Fishley, who ran the Fremington Pottery in North Devon from 1865 to 1906. William began working at the pottery from 1902, but later built and managed the Braunton Pottery, after the Fremington Pottery was sold.

When he was young, Michael Cardew visited the Braunton Pottery, and William Fishley Holland taught him to throw on the potter's wheel. Michael Cardew would have preferred to have been taught by the old Mr Fishley who threw robust, honest, heavy country pots, but Edwin Beer Fishley died when Michael Cardew was still a boy, and it was William Fishley Holland, who threw thinly and smoothed his pots with a rib, that gave Michael Cardew his first taste of the wheel.

Those of you who read A Devonshire Pottery will know that Doug Fitch recently added Michael Cardew's potter's wheel to his studio, and has been throwing pots on it. I thought it would be nice to introduce Doug's lovely mug to the jug by William Fishley Holland... all I need now is a pot by Michael Cardew (dream on!!) and the circle would be complete!

Ooh the joys of manganese, copper, iron and tin... all stuck together with a goodly dollop of lead and clay!

We had unexpected visitors last night, Natacha Brosset and Rémy Debouttière, young potters from France.

Natacha and Rémy are taking a year off to travel, before they settle down to start their own pottery studio. It was lovely to meet them and to talk pottery. I was excited to discover that Natacha and Rémy had been potting in La Borne in France and knew an old La Borne Kiln that I have admired very much from afar! There are photos and drawings of a La Borne tunnel kiln in The Kiln Book by Frederic Olsen. According to Frederic Olsen's drawing, the internal measurements of the chamber are 27 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 7 and a half feet high, quite a kiln!

Rémy directed me to this web site, . There are excellent photos of an 8 meter long anagama kiln that he and Natacha were involved in helping to restore after it had languished for 20 years without use.

Crystal Glazes
I have been busy with more firings of crystal glazed pots, and have also thrown some small to medium sized earthenware pots and planters (which was most enjoyable).

Each firing of the crystal glazed pots is an experiment. I am finding out useful information about the effects of time and temperature on the numbers of crystals formed, their size and shape and am continuing to try the effects of different metal oxides in the base glaze that I am using.

In the most recent firing I grew crystals of up to 4 centimetres, this involved holding the temperature for two hours at just above 1100 degrees Centigrade as the kiln was cooling down from its peak of nearly 1250 degrees Centigrade. The glaze has to be quite fluid to make crystal glazes, and I have been interested to use some of the run off glaze as part of the design of the pot. I glazed the lower part of this pot with a white calcium matt glaze, and the top part only with the crystal glaze. I am pleased with the way the glaze changes from the mirror like top, to the watercolour like runs. I was delighted that the runs stopped just short of the bottom of the pot!

Details of the up to 4 cm crystals.

This pot with the yellow/green glaze was glaze fired twice. The first time had a brown crystal glaze with lots of manganese in it. Unfortunately I had been too cautious with the glaze application, and left it too thin towards the lower part of the pot. The second glaze coat, which I applied to correct the glaze problem, was the same base glaze with some nickel instead of the manganese. The glaze was much improved both in cover and colour, but I still had things too thin low down on the pot...., however, this time I liked the effect of the shiny glaze turning thin and dry, and, after several days of indecision, have decided to keep the pot as is and not to re fire.

I tried my copper variation on the crystal glaze, and wanted it to run in spectacular fashion over the calcium matt white glaze. The result was more careful and sweet than what I intended, but I do like the colours where one glaze runs over the other.

This pot ran just slightly too far over the white matt glaze at the bottom, but it has interesting crystals. I tried for variation of crystal shape and size in this firing. After reaching top temperature and holding for a short while, I let the temperature drop to 1120 Centigrade then held that for an hour. For the second hour I quickly climbed to 1145 Centigrade and held that temperature.

This pot has lovely crystals this side, and a dryish patch in the middle of the other side, so... I will have to apply more glaze and re fire it!

I am pleased with this one, it has a glaze that reminds me of a vegetable, maybe a marrow or a watermelon! This was from a firing with a much shorter holding period in the cooling down stage, so crystal size is much smaller.

I must apologise that I have not done glaze testing part 2 as yet. Things have been very busy, but I am hoping that we will be able to put something together over the next few days.

I currently have a display of my work in one window of the Stuart Street Potter's Co-operative, Lower Stuart Street, Dunedin. Getting pots fired for this did make for more than one late night, but I did get the pots there in time.... just! I have crystal glazed pots on display there.

Some Links for you to follow:

Pittenweem Pottery & Art Gallery: information about William Fishley Holland and Michael Cardew. Fishley Holland Pottery, information and photos.
Michael Cardew Video; Michael Cardew demonstrating throwing a pot "off the hump".
Michael Cardew Documentary: Michael Cardew aged 81 preparing clay and throwing a large bowl.


Anonymous said...

hi peter... lovely crystalline ware. i know a potter who works with them and apparently there's a lot of grinding involved... i think that's why i'm not hooked on trying it myself but you are getting some good crystal action and some nice pots. that french kiln sounds like a monster... i bet firing it is a fun couple of days. love doug's blog and thought of it as soon as you mentioned your pot was from devon. quite a tradition over there. anyway, i enjoyed the post... cheers

Hannah said...

Oh I'd like to know the tale about how that jug got all the way to NZ by itself. It'll be happy with Doug's mug I'm sure.
I'd very much like to go to La Borne to the wood firing festival there some time.

Armelle said...

Hi Peter,
I love the copper variation over the calcium matt glaze and the shape of this pot. Really you are right, seeing a pot means to know about the potter, your pot and William Fishley Holland's jug are so nice.
How the world is little and I enjoy the smile of Rémy and Natacha. I come from Dough Ficht's blog and I see that Mark Griffiths went to meet Dough............Last year I saw Mark Griffiths and his salt pots at Whichford Pottery !!!

Best wishes
et salut à Laura et Ginger

Peter said...

Hi Jim,
I guess that the grinding of glaze that has run past the bottom of the pot is one aspect of the process that doesn't thrill me much either, but it is not as bad as what I feared it would be. Having the pots up on little circles of insulating fire brick cut to size and given a good thick coat of alumina really helps, and a saucer to catch the drips is really essential. Most of the failures I am having are due to the wrong thickness of glaze. I brush the glaze on at the moment, but may eventually splash out on a compressor and a spray gun, just to give me more control.

Hi Hannah,
It is interesting to think of how the jug came to be in Dunedin, it certainly is a long way from home, however Doug's mug will give it good company. There were two other pieces by Fishley Holland at the same antique shop, sadly... not enough money to acquire them all at that time. I think that they had all been the property of a private collector in Dunedin who had finally sold them. The La Borne wood firing festival sounds great fun...

Hi Armelle,
It is fun how little the world is becoming. It was so good to meet Rémy and Natacha, especially as I am now so interested in France having read your blog and enjoyed your comments. Both Rémy and Natacha are talented potters and such nice people too, so we hope they do really well when they establish their pottery together in France when they are home from their travels.
I have just been looking at pots by Mark Griffiths, really nice, and he has a good web site too /

Ginger sends sleepy purring!

Linda Starr said...

Love the jug and mug, the colors are indeed rich; that yellow green refire is exquisite. great work Peter.

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Thanks for that. It does seem to be worth re firing when glazes don't work the first time, although it is a bit like rolling a dice when putting a different glaze over the first one, I was lucky with this one!

Linda Starr said...

Oh Peter, I am feeling "spritely" today, te he he.

Angie said...

Love the pot where the glaze runs down over the matt while base.

Pittenweem caught my eye ....its 45mins along the coast,by bus, from me ....may have to investigate the pottery. I wonder which part it is situated in . If the pottery is near where the fishing boats land their catch, then there are so many steps down and what seems like even more to climb back

Peter said...

Hi Angie,

Just been on Google maps and the pottery looks a mile or so in land from Pittenweem. I think that this link should locate the Pittenweem pottery for you if you copy it into your browser,,-4.064941&sspn=21.139889,39.506836&ie=UTF8&z=13&iwloc=A

According to the info on their website contact page
they are "1 Mile along Charles Street, next to Grangemuir Holiday Park".

Maybe you can combine a visit to the pottery with a short holiday too!
Glad you liked the glaze runs over the matt white base, I am really interested by the possibilities of what might be done with that effect, particularly on something sculptural.

Must dash, P :}

オテモヤン said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amy said...

Wow- that picture with the blue glaze running almost to the bottom, will you ever let go of that one? It's priceless. thanks for teaching me about the crystals... peace!

Peter said...

Hi Amy, glad that you liked the one with the running blue glaze, I think that is my favourite out of those too.
Unfortunately I have to put most of what I do up for sale so won't be able to keep it, unless no one buys it! I was a bit tempted to keep it to send to the exhibition in NC later this year, but we will have to see.

paul jessop said...

Hi Peter, Love the jug . good to catch up on your blog, looks like a busy time, and pots look great.
Oh and I had a comment from china that I had to delete, dosn't it make you feel mad.

Peter said...

Hi Paul,
Really good to hear from you. The jug is amazing really and we are really lucky to have it here. Nice to think of the potter that made it, the part of England that it is from, and to marvel at how it ended up on this side of the world!

Mmmmm, the stuff we have to delete, it is sad. I must say though that blogspot (Google) have done a remarkable job at keeping things fairly spam free most of the time, and I am very thankful for that.